By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State finally came through with the clutch hit that had eluded the team through 18 innings of its series against Tennessee.
Seth Heck broke up a scoreless stalemate with a chopper over the third baseman to score C.T. Bradford in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 1-0 win Saturday night to even the weekend series.
“The last two nights we’ve been trying to get those hits late in the ballgame,” Heck said. “We didn’t get them (Friday) night and when guys are pitching so well you really want to get those hits.”
The Bulldogs (32-19, 15-11) left the bases loaded in both the eighth and ninth innings during Friday night’s 4-2 loss and squandered six runners in scoring position in Game 2. State has stranded 21 runners so far in the series.
“We did what we had to do to win a ballgame tonight,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “It’s frustrating that we’re not getting the key hits at the right time.”
The Diamond Dogs collected nine hits on the night, led by Brett Pirtle and Gavin Collins each going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Heck was 2-for-5 and Bradford logged the game’s only extra-base hit with a double to lead off the 10th inning.
Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder combined for a two-hit, 10-inning shutout for MSU.
Mitchell went 61⁄3 innings, giving up two hits while walking three and striking out five. Holder (5-1) picked up the win in relief, tossing 32⁄3 hitless frames while fanning seven of the 11 batters he faced.
“It’s a little bit of a different role than last year,” Holder said. “I’ve had to train my arm differently to prepare for a little longer outing. I usually have a sense that if I don’t pitch on a Friday that I’ll probably have to be an extended reliever. I’m out here doing whatever it takes to help this team win.”
Derek Lance had both of Tennessee’s hits. The Volunteers fell to 11-15 in the league and 29-19 overall.
Nick Williams’ nine-inning shutout was lost in the top of the tenth by Kyle Serrano (3-3).
UT sophomore left-hander Andy Cox (4-1, 1.85 ERA) is slated to start today’s rubber match at 1:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network while MSU will counter with either sophomore righty Preston Brown (4-1, 2.28 ERA) or junior southpaw Lucas Laster (0-0, 2.00 ERA).